The Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools announced this week the rollout of a new platform for its Fund-a-Need program, hosted by FoundationGIVE. The platform was created to help teachers find resources to support unique experiences for students.
“This platform goes beyond just crowdfunding,” says Foundation for LPS President Wendy Van. “We are creating a smart-marketplace of sorts, where our community can meet our schools in partnership. We can’t wait to see what our parents, grandparents and community partners will be able to make happen for kids using this fantastic tool.”
Lincoln’s Nelnet Innovation Hub took the foundation’s existing platform and further developed it with updated features and an in-kind marketplace. The platform also provides a place for businesses to sign up for volunteer opportunities.
“Lincoln is a rather progressive foundation and district, and they’ve been ahead of the crowdfunding platform curve,” said Casey Winkels, Product Strategy and Business Development for Nelnet. “What we’ve created with FLPS solves compliance, visibility and marketing problems that all public schools will face as they do more online crowdfunding.”
The Fund-a-Need program was started over 14 years ago, but the new interface allows for more interaction between the community and the educators. Teachers submit ideas for projects and activities, called campaigns, that fall outside of the tax dollars budget provided to schools.
“Fund-a-Need has been a great investment––one that has changed the lives of tens of thousands of students and teachers in LPS since its inception,” said Gary Reber, Development Officer for School Communities at the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools.
The additional funding provided by the campaigns allows students to have educational opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have with typical budgetary limitations. Funding requests include items like classroom library books, a field trip to the zoo, musical instruments and guest speakers. Access to these additional resources can help level the playing field for lower-income schools.
“In this era of continuously increasing expectations for students, Fund-a-Need donors continue to show us their support of public education,” said teacher Tiffany Young. “It is exactly this type of community-level support that makes a difference in kids’ lives. We are so thankful for the generosity of our donors.”
Nelnet Innovation Hub worked to make sure the platform also addressed the unique needs that public schools have as they move more of their fundraising online.
“We met with several other foundations and did customer research and found that […] if built right, the platform would serve the district by offering compliance and an approval process, instead of just campaigns being built by teachers without any sort of approval,” said Winkels.
FoundationGIVE raised over $50,000 for K-12 education in the first month since its launch, twice what was predicted. Nelnet Innovation Hub also onboarded a couple of other foundations outside of Nebraska, making one of their first projects developed for the public school market a success.
“FoundationGIVE is a great example of a private-public partnership that helps benefit our community,” said Winkels. “We’re excited to work alongside the Foundation for Lincoln Public Schools to help LPS teachers better equip their classrooms for success.”
Christine McGuigan is the Managing Editor of Silicon Prairie News.